Victor 18717 – Original Dixieland Jazz Band – 1920

The time has come around for yet another birthday celebration, this time for cornetist Dominic James LaRocca, born on April 11, 1889.

Nick LaRocca was born in New Orleans to a poor Sicilian family.  He was exposed to the brass bands there while growing up, and was inspired to take up the cornet.  Working at first as an electrician, Nick became a full time musician in the early 1910s, playing with Papa Jack Laine.  In 1916, he became a member of the Original Dixieland ‘Jass’ (later “Jazz”) Band, of which he assumed leadership, and played on their 1917 recording of “Livery Stable Blues”, often credited as the first jazz record.  The famous “Tiger Rag” was credited to LaRocca (who held the copyright for it), though it was a traditional New Orleans tune that existed for many years before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded it.  LaRocca toured around the world with the ODJB, until he had a nervous breakdown in the early 1920s, and returned to New Orleans.

After recovering from his ordeal, the band got back together in the mid-1930s for a successful reunion, at which point they made several more records for Victor, their first electrical recordings.  Late in life, he wrote a series of letters claiming to be the sole inventor of jazz (a claim also famously made by Jelly Roll Morton, who actually had for more credibility behind it than LaRocca).  LaRocca died in 1961.

Victor 18717 was recorded December 1 and 4, 1920 in New York City.  The Original Dixieland Jazz Band consists of Nick LaRocca on cornet, Eddie Edwards on trombone, Larry Shields on clarinet, Benny Krueger on alto saxophone, J. Russel Robinson on piano, and Tony Sbarbaro on drums.

First up, a medley of “Margie”, interpolating “Singin’ the Blues”.


Margie, recorded December 1, 1920 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

On the flip, another solid tune, maybe better than the first, maybe not: (Lena is the Queen of ) “Palesteena”.


Palesteena, recorded December 4, 1920 by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Polydor 580.002 – Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra – 1934

In 1933, Louis Armstrong embarked to great fanfare on a tour of Europe, something which many of his contemporaries, including Duke Ellington, the Boswell Sisters, and the Mills Brothers were doing around the same time.  Things were not all fine and dandy for Armstrong in Europe however, as he was plagued a lip ailment that caused him pain, and a manager who took his money back to the States after being fired.  Nonetheless, Louis doesn’t let his troubles show in his work.  After finishing his tour, Louis remained in Europe until 1935.

On this Polydor record, recorded November 7, 1934 in Paris, France, not too long before his return to the States, Louis is joined by the distinguished pianist Herman Chittison, as well as Jack Hamilton and Leslie Thompson on second and third trumpets, Lionel Guimaraes on trombone, Peter duCongé on clarinet and alto sax, Henry Tyree on alto sax, Alfred Pratt on tenor sax, Maceo Jefferson on guitar, German Arago on the bass, and Oliver Tines drumming.  Maceo Jefferson was one of a very few American jazz musicians to be interned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

On “Tiger Rag” (billed some places as “Super Tiger Rag”), the band plays hot, and Chittison delivers an Art Tatum-esque piano solo.  Towards the end, the band recreates Louis’ performance from his filmed performance in Copenhagen the previous year.

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

On “St. Louis Blues” (billed here as “Saint-Louis Blues”), Louis gives a classic performance, and introduces some fine solos on piano by Herman Chittison and tenor sax by Alfred Pratt.

Tiger Rag, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

Saint-Louis Blues, recorded November 7, 1934 by Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra.

Updated on July 4, 2016.